Increasing choice across Human Services is happening.

A range of rapid drivers in this process have meant that the Community Services Industry isn’t necessarily as prepared as we would like to have been for these changes.

Reform momentum is well and truly up and running now, so the focus has turned to how we make this work well for consumers, their family and carers, workers, organisations and the Community Services Industry as a whole.

The Increasing Choice Across Human Services Policy Forum was held on 30 November 2016. 

Increasing choice human services policy forum. CSIA

The steering committee behind this event was eager for the Industry to look at the current and future impacts for all the above-mentioned stakeholders in our delicate but complex ecosystem.

Leaders from community services organisations, unions, government and consumers all stepped out of the daily grind to examine the impending reforms, and to look at their broader strategic impacts.

The enormity of the task ahead struck everyone as we heard from consumers, family members and workers.

And it was their stories that both framed and inspired conversations throughout the day.

The deeper we dug into the big issues surrounding consumer directed and person-centred care, the greater the sparks of inspiration around how to respond individually, organisationally and collectively.

But of all the things that were said, heard and discussed at the forum, the most compelling chapter of the day came from the consumer panel.

Listen to your clients. increasing choice in human services. community services industry alliance

A particularly powerful story came from one presenter on that panel, Nikki.

Her motto –  nothing about me without me – became a talking point for many people throughout the day.

Nikki had been a ward of the State, in the system for most of her life, and UnitingCare Community have been playing a significant role in supporting her over the past 10 years.

They rose to the challenge laid down by Nikki: Find the courage to leave your comfort zone and join me on my journey, or find the courage to step aside and wish me well.

All she wanted was for them to slow down. She wanted them to listen to her, understand what she wanted out of life, and comprehend that she had the right to choose who she lives with and where.

She needed us to understand that the independence created by doing things for herself is far more important than saving time – UnitingCare Community

And one of the great things about this particular example was that UnitingCare Community could express the agility and out-of-the-box thinking required to provide the support that Nikki truly needed.

Her parting comments for the forum crowd held the hopes of many people just like her.

I hope you will help create opportunities for the people you support to grow and make decisions for themselves – consumer, Nikki

As discussions continued, at the centre of every thought were the words of Nikki and the other panelists.

And after every conversation we prompted people to think about:

  • what are the opportunities?
  • what are the consequences?
  • what safeguards do we need?
  • what are we going to do?

Increasing choice in human services. community services industry alliance

Other key messages from the day were around:

  • the importance of listening to people and truly placing them at the centre and in control of what we do to support them
  • the importance of advocacy – particularly for people who do not have strong family supports or who are socially and economically vulnerable
  • the ongoing tensions of managing an increasing need for flexible workforce delivery alongside providing stability for workers
  • learning how your organisation adapts to meet people’s needs – recognising that one practice or one workforce approach does not suit all people
  • concerns that our workforces are appropriately trained and can provide high quality services
  • an ongoing willingness to share and learn from each other, and to reach out to other industries and learn from them.

Anne Curson, Churches of Christ in Queensland's Government Relations and Policy Advisor, was part of the steering committee behind the forum.

Anne said: “Here’s what struck me most from my first look at the feedback and information we gathered: despite the potential for consumer care movements to place organisations in competition or conflict, there was a strong sense of people’s willingness to come together, tackle the issues and learn from each other so that these changes actually deliver the intended improvements in people’s lives.”

The steering committee behind the forum included:

  • Centacare
  • Churches of Christ in Queensland
  • CSIA
  • Queensland Community Alliance
  • Queensland Council of Social Services
  • UnitingCare Queensland.

Information gathered at the forum will be analysed by the steering committee.

In 2017 we’ll come back with a plan to keep conversations happening, and take policy action across the key areas of interest and concern. 

Increasing Choice in Human Services steering committee and sponsors

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